Rhapsody is Coming to the iPhone. Let’s Hope!

By  |  Sunday, August 23, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Rhapsody Logo RealNetworks’ Rhapsody is a very nicely done music service. But like all subscription music offerings it’s been profoundly hobbled by the fact that it’s incompatible with iPods, the devices that dominate portable digital music. That’s about to change. Sort of. Maybe.

Over at its corporate blog, RealNetworks its reporting that it’s submitted a Rhapsody application to the iPhone App Store. The app would bring Rhapsody to the iPhone and iPod Touch, letting owners of those devices pay a monthly fee ($14.99, apparently–the price of a Rhapsody to Go account) for unlimited access to the millions of tracks in Real’s catalog.

Here’s a video from Real showing the app in action:

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.3266941&w=425&h=350&fv=]

Rhapsody for iPhone is missing one key feature offered by Rhapsody to Go on other devices: It can stream music (over both 3G and Wi-Fi) but can’t store it locally. That means it only works when you have an Internet connection. Real says it may add local music storage later, and that an upcoming Android version of Rhapsody will store music locally.

But even without the ability to store albums on the iPhone itself, Rhapsody could be what none of the many third-party music apps for the iPhone have been to date: a plausible full-blown iTunes substitute. Might a meaningful percentage of folks who spend $15 a month for 15 iTunes tracks prefer to invest the same amount of money in a service that lets them listen to everything it offers, for as long as they keep paying the monthly fee? We’ve never really had the opportunity to get an answer to that question, since iTunes and Rhapsody have never been available on the same portable device. Now they might–but only if Apple approves the Rhapsody application.

You can certainly imagine a scenario in which it declines to do so: After all, Rhapsody would definitely duplicate some features provided in the iPhone’s built-in iPod and iTunes applications. And like Google Voice, it would use its own interface for a core iPhone function (music listening, in this case) rather than “the iPhone’s distinctive user interface.” Oh, and it would just happen to compete directly with iTunes for iPhone owners’ dough.

Google Voice was kept out of the App Store–or, if you prefer Apple’s spin, not immediately allowed in–before the world knew it had been submitted. If Apple ends up accepting it, it’ll involve some combination of backpedaling, adjustments to the app by Google, and/or interference by the Feds. You gotta think that Real has announced it’s submitted the app not just to whip up the standard anticipatory enthusiasm–but also to make it tougher for Apple to reject it, especially in the wake of the Google Voice kerfuffle.

And just to show it’s not treading gingerly, Real’s blog post (by Lacy Kemp) gets a little snarky about iTunes:

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve wanted to hear a song on my iPhone and guiltily plopped down $.99 to iTunes to please my impatient self. When I first used the Rhapsody app it seriously felt like the sun shone a little brighter that day. Music matters that much.

It’ll be a thoroughly good thing for iPhone and iPod Touch owners if Apple quickly and quietly approves Rhapsody, and a lousy sign for the future of the platform if it doesn’t. Boy, do I ever hope that the next time I write about Rhapsody, it’s because it’s available in the App Store.

(Related note: I’m also still waiting for the impressive-looking iPhone edition of the excellent LaLa service, which I got a preview of ten months ago.)


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10 Comments For This Post

  1. CLM Says:

    I’m pretty sure I have atypical music listening habits, so I am curious: how much does the average iPhone/iPod user spend on iTunes tracks each month? (Sounds like a T-Poll question to me…) I think part of the problem with these services is people getting a bad feeling about not owning the music forever, but I’m also not sure how many people spend $180 a year on digital music.

  2. Mike Cerm Says:

    I think it’s a total waste of time to even entertain the notion that this app MIGHT get approved, because it won’t. Obviously, the rejection will spark yet another wave of bad press for Apple. However, it’s a nice publicity stunt on Real’s part, though we’ll have to wait and see if the publicity is worth the cash Real spent developing an app they knew would be rejected.

  3. Marc Says:

    Would anyone with a memory longer than 5 minutes actually let a piece of software made by Real on to their PC let alone phone? Forget it!

  4. zato Says:

    “And just to show it’s not treading gingerly, Real’s blog post (by Lacy Kemp) gets a little snarky about iTunes:
    I can’t even count the number of times I’ve wanted to hear a song on my iPhone and guiltily plopped down $.99 to iTunes to please my impatient self. When I first used the Rhapsody app it seriously felt like the sun shone a little brighter that day. Music matters that much.”

    It looks like the groundwork has been laid for the next Anti-iPhone propaganda campaign.

  5. Jindo Fox Says:

    Harry — the music streaming function on this device is completely common to the iPhone platform, so it won’t be blocked for that reason. The only way I could see it getting held up is if Apple has its own all-you-can-eat subscription service waiting for launch a la Zune. Perhaps this would be something that Apple is going to talk about on September 9th, but I’d much rather see a Beatles digital release party instead!

  6. David Crotty Says:

    Wouldn’t Apple get a piece of that monthly $14.99 fee? After all, I thought that if you’re selling something through the iTunes store, Apple takes a percentage.

  7. pnwAl Says:

    How great would this be, if it ever happens?? How would Real count the iPhone – as another device?? Or would they want to charge for it eventually? In any case – as an avid Rhapsody ToGo customer, this would be SO cool. Will Apple be forced into allowing it – sorta like Slacker for iPhone, right?

  8. Ray Says:

    I have never had a single good experience with Real. My latest was when I bought a $2,000 HP gaming computer that came with several real products preinstalled. I called them as required and told them I didn’t want their services but the next month there was a $15 bill on my credit card. Calls to their services kept sending me to India where their customer service people where purposely obtuse and infuriating in their insistence on asking why I did not like their service and that I had paid for a month and I should listen to it since I’d paid for it… a complete run around. And this is par for the course with Real.
    If Apple were to allow Rhapsody (a Real Network disguise) access to the app store, which I doubt very much, they would be letting the snake into the hen house. I would never consider buying it. People who like Phapsody just haven’t been burned yet. Caveat Emptor!

  9. Ken Says:

    Don’t know what you guys are talking about but I have been with Rhapsody since its inception back in 2004. I wouldnt even waste .99 cents on an itunes song. WHY WOULD I??!! Rhapsody costs $14.99 a month for unlimited streaming. The Sansa E250 is a great MP3 player. Connects with Rhapsody flawlessly and to be able to play over 9 million songs at a click of the mouse without paying .99 cents. Rhapsody rules and thats that…period!!!

  10. Ken Says:

    Oh and after 5 years of Rhapsody..Never been burned!! Sorry Ray

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    […] all:&nbspReviews When Real said that it had submitted a version of its Rhapsody music service to the iPhone App Store, I was still smarting from the Google Voice debacle and feared the worst. Would Apple decide that […]